A classroom of students at work

“By implementing the skirts requirement based on blatant gender stereotypes about the ‘proper place’ for girls and women in society, [the school] has acted in clear violation of the Equal Protection Clause.”

Senior Circuit Judge Barbara Milano Keenan in her ruling that a charter school in North Carolina cannot enforce a girls' skirt dress code as part of their school uniform. The ruling is the first of its kind.

Published on

jun 20, 2022

  • Why It Matters: A federal court judge ruled that a North Carolina charter school — which the judge considered a federally-funded public entity, while the school argued it was a private entity and exempt from the Equal Protection Clause — cannot enforce girl students to wear a skirt as part of their school uniform. The court's decision can potentially apply to other charter schools that are considered public entities.
  • "This was the first time a circuit court has recognized the harms of gender stereotypes," said Galen Sherwin, a senior staff attorney at the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project, who represented the students arguing against the school uniform.
  • Parents and students started advocating for the policy change around 2015. When a parent reached out to the school about their policy requiring girls to wear skirts, the school’s founder, Baker A. Mitchell, responded that the school was “determined to preserve chivalry and respect among young women and men” and that they needed to “restore, and then preserve, traditional regard for peers” (according to court documents provided by The Washington Post).
  • In her opinion, Judge Keenan wrote: “It is difficult to imagine a clearer example of a rationale based on impermissible gender stereotypes."
  • “I’m glad the girls at Charter Day School will now be able to learn, move, and play on equal terms as the boys in school. In 2022, girls shouldn’t have to decide between wearing something that makes them uncomfortable or missing classroom instruction time," said Bonnie Peltier, mother of a former student involved in the case, in an ACLU news release.
  • Something to consider: A study published in December 2021 found that "school uniforms don't seem to have any effect on young students' behavior or attendance overall," and that students report lower levels of "school belonging" when required to wear a uniform (ScienceDaily).

For more about what a charter school is: EdWeek.com

A school made girls wear skirts. A court ruled it unconstitutional (Washington Post)

In ‘skirts only’ school case, 4th Circuit says innovation great, inequality ain’t (Reuters)

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